It is a lovely day in May 1956 when we crest the hill and draw the wide winged Mercury to a stop in front of the big white farm house. Months have gone into the preparation for this move. All the wallpaper inside the 13 rambling rooms have been cleaned with a sponge like material; the one little wood stove in the kitchen has been polished and cleaned. I am seventeen years old and a bride of seven months.
My eyes take in the wide open fields with the stone walls separating them like little square boxes. Chipmunks are scurrying on them, looking alarmed at the thought of visitors after months of solitude. We’ve bought the house because it was a good buy; and the fact that over the years it was owned by my husband’s family.
What a glorious feeling to no longer share three rooms with five other people! This space was all mine and I looked down in the valley to Indian Pond where I had spent many a summer in my childhood.
It had been a long seven months living with my husband’s parents. His mother, though she hid it well, was shell shocked to think he had married a seventeen year old tomboy from Greenwood Center. I had graduated high school and did what most “girls” did in the Fifties: get a job and/or marry and have a family. I got the job sorting rosewood at Ekco Products at .75 an hour. I had earned two scholarships during my school years and passed a Federal Civil Service test in Rumford to become a secretary. I passed with flying colors but was too young to be hired for the job. (Incidentally, on my 18th birthday, a letter came to my parents’ home in my maiden name from the Dept of the Navy wanting me to work in the Pentagon) Ah , the road not taken, but I was reveling in my own little country estate at the time and not a thought was given that I had missed a grand opportunity.
Mother-in-law was a treasure throughout the winter. As soon as I got home from work, we had our little sessions where she was determined to make a young lady out of me. I didn’t have the heart to tell her my mother had seventeen years and failed, but this woman was insistent. I sat there by the hour as she instructed me on crocheting edgings around hankies; later an embroidery piece with a deer head on each end became my Dad’s Christmas present. She taught me how to cook a decent meal and if she was disappointed in her son’s choice, one would never have known.
But I digress. I mentioned the little cook stove in the kitchen. In the cellar resided a huge wood/coal furnace which would come in handy during a Maine winter. ( or so I thought…) In the corner was a piano which the former owners left behind and that, in my mind, was about as important as any piece of furniture we could buy.
Out in back was a little red shed like structure, which I believe was a hen house and on that May morning I had already made up my mind that there would never be a hen or rooster or any winged creature wandering around MY wonderful estate. It was big enough to hold a couple cows had I really measured it correctly.
Up on the side hill was a beautiful plum tree and apple trees scattered here and there. Visions of jams and jellies formed in my mind and I could see myself standing in front of my cupboard delighting in the gleaming reds of all my accomplishments.
Gardens! We would have gardens and by the dawn’s early light, I would be out hoeing and weeding while the dew was still on the ground. Later in the year, I would be canning and freezing all that green beautiful produce fresh from Mother Earth.
Remember, I was seventeen and not quite right in the mind. I forgot I still had a day job at .75 cents an hour and would not be standing in the kitchen with a frilly apron on all day. Instead I would be wearing gloves and handling little pieces of rosewood, straight from Brazil that my Dad would be sawing and sending over the wall that separated us at the mill.
But this is May, 1956 and looking around at the old lilac bush, now blossomed and the apple blossoms ready to appear, nothing seemed impossible.
If one cannot dream, then what good is life?